Acid and Chemical Burns: a very serious medical condition.402
An acid or chemical burn is a very dangerous medical issue that can have a detrimental impact on a person's life. They are known as caustic burns and require immediate medical attention. They can be caused by highly corrosive substances such as acid or alkaline chemicals. It happens when a person's skin or eyes touch an irritant or acid. It causes an immediate severe reaction. If swallowed or if the chemical amount is high on the skin, it can cause severe damage to the individual's internal organs.
Please seek immediate medical attention if you or someone else suffers an acid or chemical burn.
Most chemical burns are caused by a person coming into contact with an acid or base. These burns can happen at a place or work, school or any location where you handle these chemicals such as industrial solutions. These products are known to cause chemical burns:
- Car battery acid
- Pool cleaning products
- Products that contain a high amount of acid or chemicals.
Please seek immediate medical assistance if you come into contact via skin or eyes with any of these substances. Please handle such substances carefully and with the use of protective gloves.
What to do if you have an Acid or Chemical Burn?
- If you do suffer a chemical or acid burn, the first thing is to contact the local medical team or professionals as soon as possible. To prevent the injury from worsening very quickly, these are the actions you can take:
- Carefully remove the chemical and any clothes that have been splashed with it
- Use clean water to wash out the area as much as possible.
- Remove the chemical and contaminated clothing so it does not touch the eyes or skin
- Use gloves to cut off the clothes and do not brush up against the wound
- Try not to wipe the skin as this can spread to the polluted area.
- Please rinse the area continuously with water.
- If a family or friend has been affected, please try to reassure them as much as possible until medical assistance arrives.
Accidents are unavoidable at home, at work or in an industrial location. The important thing is to ensure the safety of yourself and the people around you.
The key steps to take are the following:
- Use protective clothing and gloves when handling dangerous chemicals
- If in an industrial environment, please follow rules to ensure you are at least risk of harm
- Please keep chemicals or acids out of the reach of children, vulnerable adults and pets.
- Please handle all chemicals carefully and try to use as much assistance as possible.
- There is a higher risk of harm if you handle chemicals or acid without protection or assistance.
Depending on how the burn happened, the symptoms of chemical burns can change. Symptoms of a burn from ingesting a chemical differ from those of a burn on your skin. A chemical burn's signs will depend on:
- If the chemical was consumed, inhaled, or came into touch with your skin
- Whether your skin was undamaged or had open cuts at the time of contact
- The site of contact
- The quantity and strength of the chemical
- What type of form the chemical is in i.e solid.
An alkaline substance, for instance, will burn the inside of your stomach if you swallow it. This could result in symptoms that are distinct from a chemical burn to your skin.
The following list of signs and symptoms is representative of chemical burns:
- Redness or burning in the location of the burn, or blackened/ dead skin
- Pain or numbness in the affected area
- If chemicals have gotten into contact with your eyes, you could experience loss of vision.
If you've eaten or ingested a chemical, you can also experience some of the following symptoms:
- headache and erratic heartbeat
- reduced blood pressure
- heart attack or cardiac arrest
- breathing difficulties coughing seizures
- discomfort in the muscle
By following safety protocols and being cautious when handling chemical materials, you can avoid chemical burns.
By doing the following you can help prevent an acid or chemical burn:
- Preventing children's access to chemicals
- Putting chemicals in their original containers with warning signs and storing them safely and properly after use.
- Keeping away from using chemicals
- Avoiding combining different substances
- Only use chemicals in containment systems and with safety protocols.
- Avoiding chemicals in food and beverages
- Putting on safety clothing and equipment when utilising chemicals
If you're unsure whether a substance is poisonous or dangerous, please contact the manufacturer or seller.
Please try to ensure any chemical burns should receive first medical attention right away. This means getting rid of the chemical that produced the burn and rinsing the area for 10 to 20 minutes under running water. Prior to seeking emergency care, please rinse your eyes for at least 20 minutes after coming into contact with a chemical.
Take off any jewellery or clothes that have been exposed to the chemical. If at all possible, loosely wrap the burned area in a dry, sterile dressing or a clean towel. Take a pain treatment such as paracetamol.
If the burn is more severe, you should head to the emergency hospital right away.
Please act fast, if you face any of the following:
- The burn is wider and longer than 3 inches
- Your face, hands, feet, groin, or buttocks are affected by the burn
- The burn was near a significant joint, like your knee
- Pain relief tablets are unable to control the pain
- Your body goes into shock and starts to show signs of shallow breathing, lightheadedness, and low blood pressure
Your doctor may treat your burn using one or more of the following treatments, depending on how severe your burn is:
- Anti-itch medication
- Cleaning or eliminating debris and dead tissue is called debridement.
- Adding healthy skin from another area of the body to a burn wound is known as skin grafting.
- Fluids are given intravenously (IV) i.e a drip to maintain your sugar and water levels.
Please access medical help if you find yourself facing this situation.
For more severe burns:
If you've been seriously burned, you'll need to undergo burn rehabilitation.
Some of the following treatments might be offered as part of this form of rehabilitation:
- Cosmetic surgery
- Pain management
- Skin replacement
- Occupational therapy may be able to assist you in regaining daily skills.
- Patient education and counselling
Complications of Acid and Chemical Burns
Minor chemical burns typically recover quickly with the right medical care. However, longer-term care may be necessary for burns that are more serious. Your doctor could suggest that you get treatment at a specialised burn clinic in this situation.
Among the issues that some people with severe chemical burns may have are:
- Limb loss
- Scarring muscle and tissue damage
With good medical care and therapy, most acid burn patients with severe chemical burns will recover.
You can request to be referred to the hospital's mental health team for help and treatment if you have been the target of an attack and you are feeling sad or frightening days after the incident.
Any patient who has experienced an attack and has an ongoing mental health issue should contact MedRec hospital for further support.
For further information please access the following resource:
Page last reviewed: Mar 1, 2023
Next review due: Mar 1, 2025